Iwi on Marine and Coastal Area Bill

Assistant Deputy Vice-Chief Political Editor Claire Trevett reports in the Herald:

Maori opposition to the new foreshore and seabed bill is increasing, with South Island iwi Ngai Tahu saying it would rather keep the 2004 act than give Maori support to a 2011 version which was equally unjust.

Ngai Tahu representatives spoke before the Maori Affairs select committee in Christchurch yesterday, saying that while the Marine and Coastal Area bill was an improvement on the Foreshore and Seabed Act, it would leave most iwi and hapu no better off because the tests required to have customary title and rights recognised were unfair and too high.

The test required for customary title is not designed by politicians – it is the test that the Court of Appeal said was required under the law.

Ngai Tahu are right that under that test, they would gain little, if any, customary title.

But they are now arguing not for having their legal rights restored, but for Parliament to give them greater rights than the Court of Appeal said they had.

Ngai Tahu’s submission quotes the iwi’s kaiwhakahaere, Mark Solomon, as saying it would be better to leave it to future generations to take up the battle of fixing the injustices caused by the 2004 Act “rather than shouldering the burden of a history that alleges Maori support for a 2011 Act that is equally as unjust”.

They may have a very very long wait. I can not imagine either major party ever wanting to go beyond what the Court of Appeal found, in terms of eligibility for customary title.

The iwi’s stance is a turnaround from initial support for the bill from Mr Solomon as part of the Iwi Leaders Forum which was consulted when the bill was developed.

Not exactly good faith it appears to me.

Ngai Tahu said the test for title and rights should be based on Maori custom and the intensity of each iwi’s relationship with the coastline, rather than on exclusive use and occupation of the coastline.

That is a valid view. But it is not the law of the land, as decided by the Court of Appeal.

Ngati Tama and Te Atiawa were among the Te Tau Ihu iwi which applied to the Maori Land Court seeking title of the foreshore and seabed in 1997 – a move which led to the Court of Appeal’s Ngati Apa decision that iwi could test their title in court, and, as a result, the 2004 Act vesting the foreshore in Crown ownership which iwi were so opposed to.

Yesterday, Te Atiawa rejected the bill that was supposed to rectify that, saying the tests were “unreasonably high” and if they were not changed, it should not go ahead.

Again the tests were set by the Court of Appeal. No Government would dare go beyond what the Court of Appeal found in relation to customary title.They want the rules changed to favour them – understandable, but unjustified from a public policy viewpoint.

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